tv Studio 1.0 Bloomberg January 3, 2016 12:00pm-12:31pm EST
emily: he got his start in west philadelphia, working for the fresh prince himself, and later biggie, and p. diddy. his breakthrough came in 2007, when he met a woman the world would come to know as lady gaga. troy carter helped take gaga from unknown to multiplatinum, then brought in his job title from talent manager to tech investor, betting on spotify and uber. but his own path to hollywood was unexpected, coming from a tough neighborhood, with a father who did time for murder. proof, he says, you write your own future. joining me today on "studio 1.0," founder and ceo of atom factory, troy carter.
troy, thank you so much for being here. it is great to have you. troy: thank you for having me. emily: so, you grew up in west philadelphia, just like the fresh prince of bel air. troy: west philadelphia, born and raised. [laughter] emily: so, we are going to talk a little bit about where you are from, and your career in music a little later on. but i want to start with technology. how did you get into tech investing? troy: you know what, it kind of fell into my lap. about five years ago, i did not even know what the terminology "venture capitalist" was. working with lady gaga in the very beginning, it was very difficult to get the music played on the radio. so we used a lot of social media tools to market it. facebook was coming out of .edu, twitter was on the rise, youtube was just taking off. and we were using these social media platforms to reach fans directly. and a lot of the technology companies basically started approaching us.
75 investments later, now i am a venture capitalist. i emily: you and lady gaga started using twitter, and facebook, and youtube before anyone else in the music industry really did. in fact, they thought those services were their enemies. f troy: we kind of used it out of desperation more than anything else. we were at a stage where these distribution systems and gatekeepers, all of a sudden, were a little less powerful, because of this technology where you could speak directly to fans. the first time we heard gaga's music, before she even got before she got signed, was on myspace. she was the first mainstream artist to really break out on these platforms. emily: you are an investor in companies like uber, dropbox, lyft, spotify. these are deals that traditional silicon valley venture capitalists would kill to get into. how do you get in? troy: i think it helps that i am an entrepreneur.
emily: give me an example of what your secret weapon is as a tech investor. troy: the willingness to drive a mack truck through a cul-de-sac, when i believe in something. and also, i think, empathy. so i know what keeps founders up at night. the anxiety of competition, and what's next. i can relate to it. emily: let's take uber, for example. how did you get into uber? tell me the story. troy: you know what, i met an entrepreneur by the name of shervin pishevar. and he said, you know what, i'm thinking about going into venture capital. the first deal shervin called me about was uber. at that time, they were only in san francisco. the first conversation i had with travis, was about -- you know, i'm thinking, the capital expenses around this business of buying, you know, hundreds of
thousands of black cars. this could never be successful. and, automatically, travis said, and we are a logistics platform. we are not buying cars. he explained it. my worry was about, how do you scale this company? emily: so travis was convincing you, you were not convincing travis to let you in? troy: yes, you know, he basically sold me on the vision. at that stage, you are interviewing each other. we had a pretty significant network. we helped pull jay-z and the roc nation team into uber. it was about us being able to activate our network as well. emily: you are also an investor in lyft. troy: yes. emily: uber and lyft are like sworn enemies. how does that work? troy: we actually invested in a company called zimride, where john and the zimride team were at zimride were basically providing carpooling from him dormitories at school to campuses. six months later, we invested in uber.
that was just black car service. they were completely noncompetitive. and then uber launched uber-x, and then they wanted to kill each other. [laughter] emily: so what is that like, having bets on two opponents? troy: you know, i think some people have the opinion that it is going to be winner-takes-all. as we look at this complicated transportation ecosystem, i feel like there is going to be enough room for both. it will be winner-take-most, but i don't think it will be winner-take-all. emily: what is your philosophy at atom factory? what kind of companies and technologies are you most interested in? troy: we are kind of focused on huge shifts in consumer behavior, and large demographic shifts. when you look at spotify and songza that we invested in, and kind of looking at, the shift from downloads to streams. emily: what do you see as the main differences between silicon valley and l.a.?
troy: the difference is, up north, you have a very mature system here. you know, you are on fourth and fifth generation tech companies. and l.a., the lineage is more around media, and more around storytelling and narrative, and so the tech ecosystem is still very, very young. but when you look at companies like beats by dre, maker, snapchat, you are starting to see these multibillion-dollar companies pop up. emily: snapchat, for example, you mentioned -- $19 billion. are they worth that? troy: i think so. i think they will be worth more, actually. when you see the amount of videos viewed per day and the type of engagement around the product. emily: what do you think about the fears that we are in a bubble, that valuations are too high? troy: i'm seeing some valuations that are way too high, because the company just is not worth what that valuation is, at that
particular time. when you have a rounds that look like b rounds and then b rounds that look like c or d rounds and late stage looks bigger than what the ipo would be, i think we have to really be smart in our approach to how you deploy capital. as a founder, i just would be very careful with burn rates right now. and making sure i have a clear path to revenue. just in case the winter comes quickly, you are prepared as a company to survive, and you are not just surviving off of fundraising. emily: do you think winter is coming? troy: winter always comes. [laughter] it is just a matter of when. i definitely feel like a correction is coming. we see a series of mini-corrections, by the way. i do not think the bottom is going to fallout, but i do think we will see a series of corrections. hopefully, nothing catastrophic happens.
emily: where are egos bigger, l.a. or silicon valley? troy: both. [laughter] emily: people here think they can change the world, is that awesome or is that arrogant? troy: i think it's awesome. because i think in order to change the world, you have to have big, audacious goals. and we need elon musk. you know, we need mark zuckerberg. we need larry page. we need mark andreessen. and by the way, we need george lucases and steven spielbergs and m. knight shyamalans and jj abrams, i think we need both. emily: your father spent time in jail for murder. how did you overcome that? ♪
emily: you had a complicated and difficult childhood. how did you overcome some of the things that you had to go through, which no kid should have to go through? troy: we grew up in a really tough neighborhood. we went to sleep to gunshots every single night. it was something regular. my mom worked 30 years at children's hospital in philadelphia. got up to go to work every day, 5:30 a.m. we would pour out the penny jar, and count out the pennies to be able to put into the bus, so that me and my brothers could go to school in the morning. we had to boil hot water, because we did not have hot water sometimes. and that gave me a drive to really make my family proud, to work really hard. emily: your father spent time in jail for murder. how did you overcome that? troy: that was definitely tough, growing up. not having a dad there, and kind of looking for that figure, that void was always there.
it took a long time for me to kind of really reconcile that. one bad night can kind of change everything. he was arrested, did his time, and came back out, and pulled his family back together. for kids who grow up now, so many black men in prison right now, so many kids left fatherless, me being able to show those kids, you know, the script is not written. you are able to write the script. i come from where you come from. and then on my father's side, him being able to show, you know what, this does not need to be your life. what you did in the past doesn't necessarily define who you are in the future. emily: i want to talk about how you discovered music. like, i know when you were 17, you tried to be a rapper. troy: i was the biggest hip-hop fan. i was the kid that would read all of the liner notes, down to
which recording studio. i used to sneak down -- where the records were recorded in, i used to sneak down stairs in my grandmother's house. she had this old hi-fi stereo, and i would listen to records while everybody was asleep. in ninth grade, i decided we were going to form this rap group, me and my best friends. we used to hop on the train down to jazzy jeff's studio. literally, for months, we would do it. they would leave us -- jazzy jeff would peek outside, never let us in. [laughter] one day, we ended up being able to get into the studio. will smith was in the studio. and we just walked up to him and said, can we play you some music? the studio was so small, we had to go outside in the snow and do our dance moves in the snow. will drove us home that night. emily: will smith drove you home. troy: drove us home that night. and basically told our parents, i got these kids. there are going to be ok.
we weren't a great rap group, so our careers were cut short, but will and his manager james lassiter were kind enough to take me under their wing. i was jazzy jeff's assistant, i was james' and will's assistant for a long time. do everything from getting the car washed, run errands, doing all of these things. that was my entry into the music business. i started promoting concerts. b.i.g. -- notorious b.i.g. was one of the concerts i promoted. i met p. diddy through working with b.i.g. i asked him, i said tell me what you do, i want to come work for you. and he said, your first job is to get me that girl from behind the bar. [laughter] emily: did you do it? troy: i got him the girl from behind the bar, and three weeks later, i was interning at bad boy entertainment. emily: 1999, something big
happened. you met eve jeffers. who happens to be eve. troy: originally, i met eve when she was about 16 years old. she was my first management client. emily: you worked with her for eight years. troy: we had an incredible run. we went from -- the good thing is, working with will, i had seen his blueprint of you can take an artist who is a rapper, and they can do television, they can do film. so my job was really just to execute on the blueprint. emily: and then your relationship ended kind of abruptly, another stumbling block for you. what happened? troy: she wanted to go to another level. at that time, there was not a lot of faith i could get her there. it was a bit of a heartbreaker. you spend eight years with somebody, you become really close. and it caught me off guard, top of the financial crisis. you know, 2007. emily: and you couldn't pay your bills. troy: no. it was like literally, i got wiped clean. it was a tough 18 months.
emily: but then, something even bigger happened. you met stefani germanotta, better known as lady gaga. troy: yes. emily: she was an unknown at the time. troy: she had just gotten dropped from defjam records at the time. you know, this girl with these huge dark sunglasses, fishnet stockings, and no pants. she and i were kindred spirits right away. we just kind of really hit it off. emily: no one knew who she was. you could not even get "just dance" on the radio. you guys were playing clubs, multiple gigs a night, just pounding the pavement. how did you finally break through? troy: she's probably the hardest working artist that i have ever met. you just couldn't find an artist who put in more hours, studied the game, studied the craft. from songwriting skills to piano. she wasn't a dancer when we met. she was behind the piano. but she worked so hard at the choreography, all of a sudden,
she was a dancer. she wanted to compete on the highest level. emily: you guys started your own social network, little monsters. i wonder how much that helped take her from here to international popstar. troy: you don't meet too many artists that really understand digital and social in that manner. so it wasn't us educating her, it was just as much as her educating us. i remember getting a phone call one day of saying -- she was watching "the social network" movie. she said, "i want to start my own social network." [laughter] and of course, i made a couple of phone calls. it was a collaboration. emily: so this is another relationship that ended abruptly for you. what happened? troy: the relationships change. and you begin to know what you are really good at. and i kind of started looking at us as, i'm really great at being an accelerator.
this sort of, you know, we sign you as a kid, we go through 30 years. i don't even know if that is my personal ambition anymore. i think after working with gaga, and kind of going through that heartbreak of just, we worked incredibly hard to build this sort of empire, and then all of a sudden, you kind of get snatched out of it -- it was a little disheartening. emily: you now manage john legend. you manage meghan trainor. how do you go from your, you know, music manager hat to your tech investor hat, and manage yourself? troy: it's all one thing. we are an accelerator that supports both artists and entrepreneurs. i'm equally as passionate about both. emily: how does spotify get over its taylor swift problem? ♪
emily: you were critical in getting the music industry to embrace spotify. how did you do that? troy: the difficult part is the music industry has been through a lot. we hear the horror stories about these guys are litigious, and they are dinosaurs. a lot of the guys who run music labels really get a bad rap. what the technology industry and some of the press is insensitive to, is what napster did to not just to the industry, but to families. i'm watching people lose their jobs. their kids having to be taken out of the schools they go to. we are not like the finance industry, or even the tech industry, where you go to college, you get a degree, and you really got something to fall back on. you don't go to school to be a record promoter, or a concert promoter.
so a lot of people, like myself, we don't have formal educations. i barely got my ged. so when spotify came along, daniel ek did a really good job at, you know what, let me show you guys that i am a friend, and that i'm going to add value, and that my job is going to show people that it is easier to pay for and stream music, than it is to steal it. and from there, i became a really big supporter. because one, he is a guitar player, he is a musician. and he wasn't a guy trying to steal from artists, or anything like that. emily: give me an example where you said to an artist, look, this is something that can benefit you. troy: there have been times where i had to get on the phone with really big managers who have really big clients, and
tell them what the downside was for them leaving their product off of spotify. all of the music is still available on youtube for free. it is still available on the piracy services for free. so you are missing out on a big audience, and you are missing out on a revenue stream. and by the way, you are ignoring the future. hurricane katrina is coming, you what i'm saying, and you are staying in the house right now. emily: have you talked to taylor swift? troy: no, i have not talked to taylor swift. emily: how does spotify get over the taylor swift problem? troy: i don't know if spotify needs to get over the taylor swift problem as much as it is, people have to see the future. free already exists. it is a flawed argument when you say, "i don't want my music on any service that offers free," when free already exists. emily: is taylor swift wrong? is she on the wrong side of history? troy: i won't say it is wrong,
but i will say in general, it is a flawed argument. it is more free than it is paid right now. she is an incredible businesswoman, one of the best marketers that i have ever seen, and on top of that, incredibly talented. so i think she does a lot of things right. but when it comes to this specific argument about -- it is proven that freemium works. that if you give people a free option, there's a huge case study that they become paid users. but you got to offer them an entry point. we will see the world become a streaming world. downloads will not last. you just look at the data right now. it just won't last. emily: what do you think of apple music? troy: apple radio, every saturday i am listening to the app. beats one, hands down, is one of the best music experiences. when you have djs like dr. dre,
like q-tip, like pharrell, and you are listening to the records that inspired them. musically, it is one of the best music experiences. an algorithm can't do that. emily: how do you see the hierarchy between apple music and spotify and tidal, how does that play out? troy: you have terrestrial radio that is stronger than ever right now. this is another one that will not be a winner-take-all market. it is very, very complicated. the streaming market is going to be very, very competitive. emily: what about tidal? troy: i think the verdict is still out. i think the intent was fantastic. just, i want artists to own something. by the way, i would rather see something that is artist-owned, than something that is venture-backed. i think the statement was powerful.
and you cannot underestimate jay-z. emily: artists are now making the bulk of their money from live events and tours. right? do you foresee that changing? troy: there will be multiple revenue streams. i think we're going to see revenue streams that don't exist, right? emily: like? troy: ai and vr. when artists can scale themselves by doing -- instead of having to go out and beat your body up by doing 120 shows over a four or five month time span when you can do 120 shows in one night, because of ai and vr, and you can create this sort of real experience, where you don't have to be there in the flesh -- that is a brand-new revenue stream that never existed before.
sam: every year around november or december, many journalists will get an assignment that makes them feel -- >> gulp. >> oh boy. sam: a little nervous. >> shoot, man, you are putting me on the spot. sam: they will be asked to write a story about what will happen in the coming year. >> the worst thing journalists can do is try and predict the future. >> i don't think anyone has made an accurate prediction once. >> there is an excellent chance that i am going to be wrong. sam: predicting the future is a tough job, but you know what they say about tough jobs. some schmuck's got to go out and do it. >> i'm standing in front of a jet engine. sam: we thought about the latest stories and developments in medicine, transportation, and energy. stories that we think will have a huge impact in 2016.